August 2012 | EditorSpeak

Small-Town Strategies
Business owners working together, and customer service—those are small-town survival strategies. In May I spent a few days in a small town in eastern California, the kind of place where Main Street is a freeway and boarded-up businesses occupy the handful of side streets. Children seemed scarce, and I’m not sure the town’s population is still the 669 it was in the 2010 census. Survival seemed to be on everyone’s mind.

My motel was run by a friendly guy who cut my already-cheap room rate when he found out I was staying for three nights—an effective way to ensure good word of mouth with four or five motels fighting for overnight guests. Then he gave me discount coupons for the cafe across the street. Clearly he didn’t want me to even consider driving 16 miles to the next town to get my coffee and eggs.

I saw the motel owner around town several times, and he never missed an opportunity to speak to me. He made sure I knew about a barbecue get-together where I’d be welcome and stopped to say hello when he saw me at a restaurant he’d recommended. He was equally attentive as a host. I got clean towels about a nanosecond after I’d asked for them, and he called within minutes of my checkout, offering to pop the USB cable I’d left behind into the mail.

There was no dance school anywhere for miles around, but I couldn’t help thinking that good business practices mean good business, no matter where you are and what you do. —Cheryl A. Ossola, Editor in Chief

Extraordinary Someones
As we find ourselves at the end of summer, many of us are saying goodbye to much more than long, lingering July evenings.

Many of my friends and I are seeing our children pack their clothes, electronic accouterments, and their teetery perches on the cusp of adulthood to go off to college. As I watch my son march off, resolute in his conviction that he knows everything, I myself know that if he does know anything, it’s because someone special taught it to him. Several extraordinary someones: the kindergarten teacher who made books irresistible, the fourth-grade teacher who signed up the entire class for an international math competition, the English teacher who bathed his students in the beauty of Faulkner.

The all-important teacher. The legendary figure who can change lives. Good teachers foster creativity and curiosity and encourage kids to take risks. They show them that the hard work of learning is rewarded by the joy of discovery.

And then there’s the dance teacher. Many of you have taught some of your students since they were wearing saggy pink tights and a tiny tutu they refused to take off for six months. Now those young adults are registering to vote and helping the creative-movement kids untangle their colorful scarves.

You watched them master their first pirouette, and now they’re doing three. You’ve seen them through several tap shoe sizes. They’re no longer prone to letting an enthusiastic battement knock them onto their behinds. They’re actually on the music, beautifully.

And now they’re moving on. Seeing them shift into the next stages of their lives brings mixed emotions: hope, anxiety, joy, sadness, pride. But I hope you’ll remember the gifts you’ve given them: discipline, focus, confidence, the ability to cooperate. Your young dancers are almost certainly more open-minded and openhearted than they would have been had they never danced. You’ve given them movement and music, and wonder. You’ve shown them that challenges are put on this earth to be surmounted. You’ve taught them how to make what could be a dreary slog into a waltz through the world.

My dance teachers certainly did. —Lisa Okuhn, Associate Editor